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NWU: Duke detention ‘meant to intimidate and cower’ threats to ‘political elite’

“It is disturbing that the police have not made a comprehensive statement on the issue which clarifies the nature of the so-called investigation. Information in the public sphere seems to suggest that Mr [Watson] Duke is being investigated for statements made months ago and which are said to be seditious.

“Over the last few months the notion of sedition seems to have crept into the political lexicon. Instead of repealing this oppressive colonial law which tramples upon the freedom of speech of those who speak for the voiceless, the working people, the poor and the oppressed, the political elite seems quite comfortable in attempting to muzzle views at variance with and opposed to theirs…”

The following press statement on the arrest of PSA union leader Watson Duke was submitted to Wired868 by the National Workers Union (NWU):

Photo: PSA union boss Watson Duke leads a protest for public servants.
(Courtesy Power102 FM)

The National Workers Union (NWU) calls on the national community not to take the detention of Watson Duke lightly. It is meant to intimidate and cower, not only leaders of the trade union movement, but all who, in the eyes of the political elite, pose a threat to their continuing to reap the fruits of office.

It is disturbing that the police have not made a comprehensive statement on the issue which clarifies the nature of the so-called investigation. Information in the public sphere seems to suggest that Mr Duke is being investigated for statements made months ago and which are said to be seditious.

Over the last few months the notion of sedition seems to have crept into the political lexicon. Instead of repealing this oppressive colonial law which tramples upon the freedom of speech of those who speak for the voiceless, the working people, the poor and the oppressed, the political elite seems quite comfortable in attempting to muzzle views at variance with and opposed to theirs.

The Sedition Act of 1920 was passed into law by the colonial government as a reaction to the tremendous workers uprising and general strike of 1919, which ushered in the modern period of the workers movement.

The Sedition Act has been amended four times since its enactment, instead of it being taken off the books. The Act states it is an “An Act to provide for the punishment of seditious acts...

A seditious opinion is defined in the Act as: an intention— (a) to bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against Government or the Constitution as by law established… 

Photo: Maha Sabha Secretary General Sat Maharaj was investigated for sedition earlier this year.

(b) to excite any person to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, to procure the alteration of any matter in the State by law established; 

(c) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago; 

(d) to engender or promote— (i) feelings of ill-will or hostility between one or more sections of the community on the one hand and any other section or sections of the community on the other hand; or (ii) feelings of ill-will towards, hostility to or contempt for any class of inhabitants of Trinidad and Tobago distinguished by race, colour, religion, profession, calling or employment; or

(e) to advocate or promote, with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, the commission of any of the following acts, namely: (i) killing members of the group; or (ii) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. These definitions are so open to interpretation that they are a lawyer’s delight.

Some of the labour leaders of the 1919 general strike were charged with sedition as were Uriah Butler, Jim Barrette, Elma Francois, Bertie Percival and other labour leaders of the 1937 anti-colonial uprising. Duke, whether deserving or not, is in good company.

Instead of utilising its resources to suppress rampant criminality, the police service is being used to persecute those who are not in the good graces of the political directorate. How is it that a statement made months ago has resulted in Duke’s detention? Did it take that long to decide on whether the statement was seditious or not?

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) and Minister of National Security Stuart Young.
(Copyright TTPS)

According to the Act a “person shall not be prosecuted under this Act without the written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.” Is the DPP part of this investigation?

The NWU warns the national community that this development does not bode well for the volatile political and social situation in the country. This may be the opening act in a play which involves the new-found interest by the Prime Minister in the working conditions of public service officers. Following on the savage destruction of jobs in Petrotrin and TSTT, is it that public officers are on the chopping block?

The National Workers Union warns the national community that this assault on the hard-won rights of the people will not be restricted to the labour movement. We wonder what the Chamber of Commerce and the one percent, who are posing as defenders of free speech, have to say about this one.

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Letters to the Editor
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One comment

  1. Earl Best

    The price of freedom, we have long been warned, is eternal vigilance.

    Lest we forget…